Saturday, July 9, 2011

Trial and Error

Even though we've been here for two years now, I'm still learning about this yard and how its microclimates affect the plants I want to grow.  Some things have thrived, some have done okay, some are limping along, and some have given up the ghost.  As we get into the fall, I've got a list of things to move to a better location, things to remove entirely, and things to plant that might do better than what I've already tried. 

For instance, the front north island bed needs some serious TLC.  It's very exposed in the winter, getting the howling wind from the north-northwest-west, and very dry during the summer, when it gets baked from that same quadrant of the compass.  I'm finding that I need to put extra-tough plants there.  The miscanthus grass, shasta daisy, juniper and daylilies are doing fine there.   The penstemon is just holding on, the peony was just okay (but it's still getting established from last year - peonies take a couple years to get going), the lychnis chalcedonica (Maltese Cross) isn't happy at all, the hemlock tree is not looking good, and the phlox was a total failure.  I'm surprised that the hemlock is struggling, and I'm hoping it has a good winter and rebounds next year.  Any number of annuals have disliked that location (petunias, alyssum, marigolds, snapdragons and dwarf zinnias all have failed to thrive on the exposed side of the bed), although tall zinnias seem to like the east side of the bed just fine, and look pretty good.

Tonight I started renovating that bed, with the addition of three sedum 'Autumn Joy' on the south end of the bed.  There are a trio of those on the other front bed with the same exposure, and they're gorgeous and full, so I'm hoping these will similarly take off.  I'm adding a fresh layer of mulch to that bed, to better conserve water.  I'm not going to waste money on the annuals that have failed there over the past couple years, and I'm going to concentrate on drought-tolerant, heat-loving plants for the most part.  I'll probably add another clump of shasta daisies, since they've been very happy there.  I don't want to water the flower beds around my house except in a serious drought situation.  This isn't a drought, it's just a normal summer with average temps and moderate rainfall.  If those plants are struggling now, they'll totally expire during a really hot summer, so I'm going to shift that bed to the toughest plants I can grow.